Sponsored: Real Estate Confidential: What About Aquinnah?


Weekly chit-chat about new listings, sales or other insider info on the Martha’s Vineyard real estate market, by Fred Roven, Martha’s Vineyard Buyer Agents.

During one of those first meetings with a client, and after some concern with prices down-Island, the question comes up “what about Aquinnah?” We schedule some showings and on the 10-minute drive from Alley’s, we can discuss all the the negatives, or at least, the perceived negatives. Here are a few: You are 30 minutes to the ferry; you think you will want to drive down-Island for dinners out; you think you have to drive miles for grocery shopping. But just talk to someone who loves sitting on their deck or nearby beach with friends and family overlooking the ocean (even after having to drive 10 or 15 minutes to pick up the best fresh — or cooked— seafood on the Island) and you can be convinced this is the right move for you.

Aquinnah is Martha’s Vineyard’s smallest town, with a population of just over 300 at the last census. It is known most widely for its peaceful beauty, stunning clay cliffs and pristine beaches. The town is also known as the official home for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head. In 1997 the town changed its name from Gay Head to Aquinnah, which is Wampanoag for “land under the hill.” It includes the Aquinnah Cultural Center, which is an indigenous museum of the Aquinnah Wampanoag, and 485 acres of protected tribal lands. This area is one of the earliest sites of whaling. The Wampanoag harvested whales from small boats and the shore, using harpoons, long before the 19th-century industry of whaling became the major maritime industry of Martha’s Vineyard.

As we make the tour up-Island, the draw of Aquinnah is easy to grasp. I am really not sure how to limit the list of benefits and advantages, but the beaches have to be top of the list. As we drive along the North Shore we pass Menemsha Pond and on to Lobsterville Beach (which held the first Island event I experienced 30 years ago — a recorded concert on the beach by Carly Simon). Fisherman of all shapes and sizes gather for fishing along with those folks setting off by kayak to paddle cross-Island from Vineyard Sound to the Atlantic.

We reach the Gay Head Lighthouse (recently moved by an engineering feat to remember) where the views go on forever. The clay cliffs of Aquinnah are one of Martha’s Vineyard’s most prized treasures. They were formed by glacier movement across the area millions of years ago, and present a unique and breathtaking scene. A special treat for me is the best French Toast on the Island overlooking open ocean from the top of the Cliffs at The Aquinnah Shop. And then you have all the South shore beaches where you live the casual lifestyle and relaxed summer days that make Aquinnah the place that it is. You might walk the trail from the Cliffs down to The Land Bank’s Gay Head Beach and include a walk around the base of the cliffs back to Vineyard Sound. We can drive a bit further and walk across the dunes to the Aquinnah town beach, Philbin. You might consider a beach walk back towards Squibnocket Pond, Red Farm (available for purchase) and the Aquinnah-Chilmark town line.

Aquinnah is definitely a lifestyle choice. If you want some of the most beautiful, wide, sandy beaches on the vineyard, you accept you are here to truly relax away from city hubbub, you want casual dinners out watching the sun set and want to experience cultures that make Martha’s Vineyard what it was and still can be, Aquinnah just might be the place for you.

No house tour of Aquinnah would be complete without at least a drive by the ocean front mid-century modern color block design home inspired by artist Piet Mondriaan on Moshup Trail and priced at $2,650,000. The property is described as a once in a lifetime opportunity and it truly is. I took a walk along the 530’ South Shore Beach frontage. Taking that walk from your back porch is all you need to know.

Continuing my own tour, I was very impressed with the value of a quaint cottage with 3 en suite bathrooms and resting on 8 acres on Old Man Dingo Lane and priced at $1,050,000. I particularly like cathedral ceilings, central open staircases, large stone fireplace and varied wood and paint finishes. This home has it all and at a price that can compete with any other area of Martha’s Vineyard.

For many up-island buyers, views over Menemsha Pond and out across the North Shore to Vineyard Sound are must haves. You can have it all on East Pasture Lane with its 6 acres of rolling lawn with large windows and doors overlooking exquisite landscaping down toward the water and priced at $3,900,000. There are views of water from nearly every room of this very open floor plan but you might have to drag me from the high ceilinged screen porch with views in 3 directions.

And then there is the stunning new custom home on Rose Meadow Way priced at $2,900,000. Enjoy the gourmet kitchen, stone fireplace, and open floor plan out to large deck and screen porch. This is a fabulous home with wonderful spaces for socializing and entertaining as well as private areas for time alone or quiet conversation. Many visitors to this home comment on the eclectic design of the guest house and the glass shower with views over the stone walls and natural beauty surrounding you. Before leaving this property, relax on the roof deck and take in spectacular views of the Vineyard Sound and the Elizabeth Islands.

There are many properties currently on the market in Aquinnah with prices ranging from $625,000 for a 2 bedroom ranch on 2 acres (in need of TLC-a lot of TLC), a waterview building lot at $499,000, a like new 3 BR cottage 6 minute walk to Philbin Beach at $1,350,000, and, of course, 40 or 100 acres at Red Farm priced at $10M or $22M. Many Aquinnah homes have waterviews; many are secluded; all have character. View all at Aquinnah (Gay Head) properties for sale.

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